To Yellowstone Park
Ecology, Summer Semester 2011
Professor Thomas Heasley
July 15, 2011
The Cons of Wolf Reintroduction6
Pros of Wolf Reintroduction7
Reintroduction of Wolves at Yellowstone Park
While highly controversial, the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone Park has provided many beneficial ecological changes to the entire parks ecosystem. After a nearly 70 year absence, in January of 1995, 14 wolves from separate packs were captured in the Canadian Rockies and transported to Yellowstone National Park in the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho (Sanders par. 2).
The Canis Lupus or more commonly known as the gray wolf is the largest wild member in the Canine family. While once covering vast areas of the North American and European continent, the grey wolf was hunted to near extinction in the 1900’s due to mostly folk lore and fear. There were at least 136 confirmed kills between 1914 and 1926, and by the 1970’s biologist could find no evidence of a wolf population in Yellowstone Park. (National Park Service par. 1). Wolves were highly populated when the park opened in 1872 but due to predator control measures, lack of legal protection for the species, and the classification as a nuisance animal all played factors that led to their absence in the park. It was for this reason that the gray wolf was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1974 and it has taken until 2008 and more than 27 million dollars to bring the species back into a suitable population and remove them from the endangered list (Associated Press par. 12).
The move to reintroduce the wolf was very controversial with conservational and environmental groups pushing and supporting the measure but many ranchers and farmers in the area being very wary of it. But there was no denying that the ecosystem of the park had changed since the wolves’ absence, with a large increase in the elk and coyote population but a steady decline in beavers and certain native insects, trees and shrubs. History
In 1987 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) introduced a plan to Congress to reintroduce an experimental population of wolves into Yellowstone. In 1991 Congress authorized funds to conduct a study of introducing wolves back into the park in a joint plan between USFWS, National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (National Park Service par. 4). Finally, in 1994 the Secretary of the Interior signed off on the Final Environmental Impact Statement or FEIS, allowing the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone (National Park Service par. 4).
In 1995 the Canadian Government allowed capture of 14 gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. Wolves were captured from many different packs due to the difficulty in trapping an entire pack and also to diversify the DNA pool for future breeding (Sanders par.3)
The wolves were divided up into three groups and placed into three one acre acclimation pens in the Lamar Valley of the park and readied for a soft release. A soft release involves holding animals temporarily in suitable habitat to get them acclimated to their new surroundings and to discourage widespread dispersment that often happens with hard release, which involves transporting animals to their new home and releasing them immediately (Sanders par. 35.38). Hard release is also less successful due to the territorial instincts of wolves, with wolves killing or fighting any other wolf that may enter their territory.
The wolves that were released outside the park in Idaho were given a hard release and mostly scattered and did not develop a pack bond like those in the acclimation pens (Sanders par. 39,41).
According to Mike Smith, who works for Yellowstone Park, “In general, the acclimation has worked very well, In fact of the 31 wolves brought in from Canada, there was...